Untimely injuries prove lucky

Injuries are a part of any sport. For the San Diego Padres they seem to be popping up at the most inappropriate time. The team is on its last legs in a wild card race and the parts that make up the whole seem to be falling by the wayside. It isn't as bad as it appears on paper.

The joke around the Padres clubhouse going into the final week of the season was that they were one serious injury or one illness away from reaching the National League playoffs.

"The more that goes wrong, the better we seem to play ... which is a mark of a strong team," said left-handed pitcher David Wells after he had a start pushed back a day (until Sept. 25) because of a bout of sinusitis.

Already without the starting left side of the infield for the remainder of the season -- third baseman Sean Burroughs has had surgery to his right knee and shortstop Khalil Greene is limited to pinch-running because of a fractured ring finger on his throwing hand -- the Padres have been hit hard by illness.

It started Sept. 19 when left fielder Ryan Klesko developed flu-like symptoms during the Padres' final game in San Francisco.

Wells was the next to go down with a case of sinusitis -- a bacterial infection that drove the veteran away from Petco Park on a day he was scheduled to start. Next, manager Bruce Bochy came down with what Klesko had.

Then right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink became so ill that he spent one of the three days he was unable to come to the ballpark (Sept. 24-26) at an urgent care facility.

And the capper came Saturday (Sept. 25) when first baseman Phil Nevin played despite a triple-digit temperature. Between the end of Saturday night's game and the start of Sunday's series finale against Arizona, the dehydrated Nevin was administered four bags of liquid through an IV in the Padres' training room.

Nevin not only played Sunday's entire game, he hit two sacrifice flies to lead the Padres to a 7-1 win and a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks that kept San Diego alive in the both the NL West and wild-card races.

"You don't get much tougher than Phil Nevin," said Bochy. "He could have taken the day off ... he was that sick. I talked to him before the game and he said he was fine. And once he was in the game, he refused to come out. That tells you something about Phil."

"I've been waiting a long time to play in games that mean something in September," said Nevin. "I wasn't about to sit this one out."

"I know Phil is criticized for some things," said right fielder Brian Giles. "But the way he looked last night, laying on that training table hooked up to those two bags of IV fluid ... he'd do anything for this team."

Nevin was still hooked up to an IV unit an hour before game time Sunday. "Interesting pregame prep," he joked, "from that table to the field."

Plus, the Padres who are not sick are limping. Giles' right knee is bothering him. Third baseman Rich Aurilia is slowed by a badly sprained right ankle. Second baseman Mark Loretta was ready to come out of Sunday's game with a sore quadriceps muscle before he was hit on the left forearm by a Shane Nance fastball.

The sense of urgency remains as the days dwindle down.

Wins are most important and with the Padres actually playing as team, they still hold firm to the belief that they can do muster enough to charge into the playoffs.

"We've said for quite a long time that we need to play with a sense of urgency," Nevin said. "Our pitchers have gone out and done that, and mentally we feed off that. But yesterday's win didn't mean anything without today's win and today's win won't mean anything without a win tomorrow."

Rumors:

While the offseason is not here, the rumors are already filtering in.

Left-hander Rheal Cormier is believed to be interested in playing for the Padres in 2005.

He thought about retiring before this season, but he was coming off the best season of his career and the Phillies renewed his $3 million option. He went on to set a franchise record for appearances by a left-hander.

Now, at age 37, he could come back for another year on Philadelphia. He could test the free agent market; there are some who believe he wouldn't mind playing for the Cardinals or Padres. Or he could hang it up.

"I'm in limbo," he said. "I'm tired of traveling and I don't care about the money. But the kids don't want me to walk away and that's what makes it a tougher decision.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. I've thought about retirement quite a bit. If I would keep playing, I enjoy the competition and stuff. I feel good. My arm feels good. I just don't know."


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